Wildlands Adventure Zoo

One of the ATPM lecturers, Goof Lukken, was one of the happy few to have early access to the newly opened Wildlands Adventure Zoo in Emmen. Here’s a summary of his experiences.

On Thursday March 24th I was lucky to visit the newest zoo of the Netherlands Wildlands Adventure Zoo as a VIP. Two Dutch news programs asked my expert opinion about this new zoo, so we had a sneak preview before the King of the Netherlands opened the zoo officially.

Wildlands is the new zoo, located in Emmen in the North of the Netherlands. The old Emmen Zoo was in the city enter of this province town and had no more room to expand.  This led to the ambitious plan to relocate the zoo to a new location outside the city centre. It took six years to develop a new concept for the zoo, as well as creating a new development for the city centre with a square and a theatre to replace it. Finally, the result is there for all to see and the zoo has been transformed into a theme park with animals.

I found the theming (in three climate zones) very well executed. From a central square you travel into a humid climate, which is located in the largest greenhouse of Europe. Here you can take a boat ride through the jungle. You can also go on an expedition in the warm and dry climate. Here you will take a safari by truck over the savanna. Or you can go into the cold climate where a simulator will take you on an ice cold adventure and of course you will meet polar bears and penguins.

In my opinion the combination of theming and landscaping is well-constructed. It reminds me of visits to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and German ‘Erlebniszoos’ such as ZOOM, Zoo Hannover and Zoo Leipzig.  The combination of theming, the use of storytelling and the animals has been implemented in a good manner. It is an entirely new concept on the Dutch zoo market.

The  only downside to this project to me, is its costs. The budget and the investment came to over 160 million euros and an entrance fee of 30 euro per person. This is the highest entrance fee for a zoo in the Netherlands. The management of Wildlands expects that the visitor is willing to pay more for the unique experience and labels the park as a cross-over between a theme park (with attractions) and a zoo. I personally am afraid that the high entrance fee in combination with the long distance the visitor has to travel to get to Emmen, is too big.  Certainly if you look at the ambitions of the management to attract 1.3 million visitors each year. To prove this ambition, the zoo has to double its visitor numbers, which means attracting more visitors from outside The Netherlands, mainly Germany. Because most of the zoos in Germany are subsidized by the government, they can offer great quality against a very low entrance fee. But maybe I’m too sceptical? Time can only tell.

 Let me know what you think of the new Wildlands Zoo in a comment down below!

If you understand Dutch and would like to watch the interviews Goof held on national television, you can view them here:

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